Posts Tagged lawwe

Working Outside the Inbox- A presentation

Posted by on Wednesday, 29 August, 2012

You’ve heard me talk about it before, how my colleague Kelly and I have been working towards inboxes of fewer and fewer emails. Following is a Slideshare presentation I built along with Kelly based on our prior blog posts to help evangelize the concept and distill the content into just the basics:

Working Outside the Inbox is a concept taken from Luis Suarez’ experiments working in IBM without using email. This presentation is based on the WOTI blog series published on the Notes from Rational Support Blog.  In this series we investigate some of the key items to use in your own attempts to reduce the overwhelming amount of emails in your inbox, and drive towards a more open, transparent, and collaborative culture in the workplace.


Working outside the inbox- Stubbed my toe on a metrics table

Posted by on Tuesday, 3 April, 2012

Coming in to week ten and I’m still going strong, though not for the lack of some stumbling blocks along the way. Change is hard, after all, but none of my troubles were unexpected, nor that great of a hurdle. Really, all the “troubles” I’ve seen thus far revolve around my expectations and my own personal discouragement as I try to work outside of my inbox.

For me, this mild discouragement came in the form of some rather unremarkable metrics. I was hoping to see a great story come out after ten weeks of tracking both my inbox and outbox flows. Sadly, that story just isn’t presenting itself as I’d hoped. When first looking at them, I felt as though I’d stubbed my toe; a slight pain and a bit deflated, but nothing serious.  Take a look at my personal metrics for yourself (for clarity “bad” e-mail are all the types we’ve identified as potential opportunities to move those conversations to better tools, while “good e-mail reflects the automated notifications, meeting notices, and confidential communications appropriate for e-mail):


As I see it, even with nine weeks of solid data, no remarkable trend is evident. This is likely due to the fact that I’ve been working for the past few years to reduce my inbox clutter, and as such when we decided to begin tracking and formalize a more concerted effort, only slight shifts were/are evident (I’m honestly not sure why I was still secretly hoping for impressive trends to show up). In week 7 I saw a largish spike in some of the auto-notifications from one of our tools, which explains the bump in total and ‘good’ e-mails, though oddly enough I also saw a slight drop in my ‘bad’ e-mails as well, which was a good sign to me. Generally speaking the others also tracking their progress have seen similar trends.  All the while, however, I’ve been able to keep my outbox at a relative bare-minimum of sent messages; having opted for more work on wiki pages, instant messages, blog posts, and ensuring I cover questions during meetings making follow-up e-mails less likely and less necessary.

I’d love to see week nine’s downward trend continue for me, but I’m not holding for high hopes on that. Rather, I’ll rest on what I know is a true win for me, though I’m unable to document it: that my inbox has shifted from predominantly one-to-one and one-to-many messages, to simple tooling notifications over the past three years since we began more heavily utilizing collaboration communities. Had I been tracking my inbox back then, I’m sure that’s what the numbers would show me now.

Have no fear, intrepid reader, this doesn’t mean I’m beaten, broken, or giving up. No, I still see great value in driving the right conversations to the right channels, and will continue to use open and transparent communication methods to ensure our collective knowledge doesn’t find its demise through our inboxes, but rather flourishes when shared for future discovery. This whole idea really isn’t about killing email, instead it is just a provocative way to address a much-needed shift in culture to adopt collaboration tools more suited to the kind of work we do in this global economy. Effective and efficient collaboration is the name of the game these days, and email is a speed bump to the kind of knowledge sharing required for us all to be successful.
Feel like catching up with everything my colleagues and I been writing on our efforts to work outside the inbox? Check out our work blog, to which I have contributed a few posts… The following are all the posts to date surrounding our WOTI undertaking:

As always, if you’re playing along at home (or at work) I’d love to hear about your successes, difficulties, and everything in between!


Two weeks into killing off e-mail…

Posted by on Friday, 10 February, 2012

… and here’s what my numbers show thus far:

Week 1 Week 2
Outbox / sent: 2 8
Total Incoming: 116 228
Total opportunities: 41 64

Yup, I received nearly twice as much email in week 2 as I did in week 1. And I sent four times more email. That’s actually not a failure to me though. It is expected that in the beginning of trying to reduce your inbox, your outbox may suffer a tad as I am ignoring step 2 (Stop Replying!) in favour of replying with guidance to better alternatives. Mind you I haven’t had much opportunity (contrary to the ‘opportunities’ line above ) to reply like that, but one of my colleagues has, and it seems to be catching on as others are starting to see the value with communicating in forums and wikis to solve problems across teams.

For me, however, this week saw a huge win:
I have been working off-hours (after “work” but before Jean gets home, that no-man’s land of time when I am normally sitting at my desk and working anyways) on a small javascript tool to generate URLs based on user entered variables. Thanks to one of my colleagues who did all the heavy informational lifting over the past nine months, I was able to dig in and get this javascript tool working initially just based on the fact that he had shared this information on a wiki already, allowing me to work when he wasn’t necessarily available… and here is where the really big win was seen for me (aside from the tool itself which will be a huge benefit for me directly):

I was able to collaborate, test, validate content and sanity check with five other colleagues, then roll out the tool to an internal webserver all without sending a single email. Zip. Zero. Nada. No email was harmed in the creation of this tool!

Think about that for a moment. Over the course of two weeks, we went from concept to delivery of an internally deployed tool without sending any email. This includes all the testing cycles where bugs were found, corrected, retested, and other changes were updated and re-deployed to a test server. How did we do it? Easy. We used two wiki pages, our SameTime instant messenger service, and a total of 3 phone calls (one of which was to show another colleague what it does before we roll it out to a larger audience).

This little side project just inadvertently proved to me that projects CAN be run from start to finish with a minimal amount of e-mail exchanges. I say minimal here as this was a small scale proof of concept, and presumably larger more complex projects may require an e-mail or two… but I’ve shown that our alternative tools do a much better job of getting the job done, and therein lies the huge win.

We moved “working outside the inbox” from concept to reality for this project… and that excites me even more than being able to create a useful tool for me and some of my colleagues within IBM (which is itself rather exciting)!